mercredi 1 octobre 2008

Draco 7

With vast convolutions Draco holds
Th' ecliptic axis in his scaly folds.
O'er half the skies his neck enormous rears,
And with immense meanders parts the Bears.

Erasmus Darwin's Economy of Vegetation.

Draco, the Dragon,
The German Drache, the Italian Dragone, and the French Dragon, was Δράκων with the Greeks — indeed this has been the universal title in the transcribed forms of the word. Classic writers, astronomers, and the people have known it thus, although Eratosthenes and Hipparchos called it Ὄφις, p203and in the Latin Tables, as with some of the poets, it occasionally appeared, with the other starry snakes, as Anguis, Coluber, Python, and Serpens. From the latter came Aesculapius, and perhaps Audax.
It was described in the Shield of Hercules, with the two Dogs, the Hare, Orion, and Perseus, as
The scaly horror of a dragon, coiled
Full in the central field;
and mythologists said that it was the Snake snatched by Minerva from the giants and whirled to the sky, where it became Sidus Minervae et Bacchi or the monster killed by Cadmus at the fount of Mars, whose teeth he sowed for a crop of armed men.
Julius Schiller, without thought of its previous character, said that its stars represented the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem; others, more consistently, that it was the Old Serpent, the tempter of Eve in the Garden; Caesius likened it to the Great Dragon that the Babylonians worshiped with Bel; and Olaus Rudbeck, Rudbeck perhaps was "the sagacious Swede" of whom the Pope speaks in Browning's The Ring and the Book, the Swedish naturalist of about 1700, said that his countrymen considered it the ancient symbol of the Baltic Sea; but he also sought to show that Paradise was located in Sweden!
Delitzsch asserted that a Hebrew conception for its stars was a Quiver; but this must have been exceptional, for the normal figure with that people was the familiar Dragon, or a sea monster of some kind. Renan thought that the allusion of Job to "the crooked serpent" in our Authorized Version is to this, or possibly to that of Ophiuchus; but the Dragon would seem to be the most probable as the ancient possessor of the pole-star, then, as ours now is, the most important in the heavens; while this translation of the original is specially appropriate for such a winding figure. The Reverend Doctor Albert Barnes renders it "fleeing," and Delitzsch, "fugitive "; but the Revised Version has "swift," a very unsuitable epithet for Draco's slow motion, yet applicable enough to the more southern Hydra.
Referring to Draco's change of position in respect to the pole from the effect of precession, Proctor wrote in his Myths and Marvels of Astronomy:
One might almost, if fancifully disposed, recognize the gradual displacement of the Dragon from his old place of honour, in certain traditions of the downfall of the great Dragon whose "tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven," alluded to in The Revelation xii.4;
and the conclusion of that verse, "did cast them to the earth," would show a possible reference to meteors.
In Persia Draco was Azhdehā, the Man-eating Serpent, occasionally transcribed Hashteher; and, in very early Hindu worship, Shi-shu‑mara, the Alligator, or Porpoise, which also has been identified with our Delphinus.
Babylonian records allude to some constellation near the pole as a Snail drawn along on the tail of a Dragon that may have been our constellation; while among the inscriptions we find Sīr, a Snake, but to which of the sky serpents this applied is uncertain. And some see here the dragon Tiāmat, This notable creation of Euphratean mythology was the personification of primeval chaos, hostile to the gods and opposed to law and order; but Izhdubar conquered the monster in a struggle by driving a wind into its opened jaws and so splitting it in twain. Cetus, Hydra, and the Serpent of Ophiuchus also have been thought its symbols. Its representation is found on cylinder seals recently unearthed overcome by the kneeling sun-god Izhdubar or Gizdhubar, our Hercules, whose foot is upon it. Rawlinson, however, said that Draco represented Hea or Hoa, the third god in the Assyrian triad, also known as Kim‑mut.
As a Chaldaean figure it probably bore the horns and claws of the early typical dragon, and the wings that Thales utilized to form the Lesser Bear; hence these are never shown on our maps. But with that people it was a much longer constellation than with us, winding downwards and in front of Ursa Major, and, even into later times, clasped both of the Bears in its folds; this is shown in manuscripts and books as late as the 17th century, with the combined title Arctoe et Draco. It still almost incloses Ursa Minor. The usual figuring is a combination of bird and reptile, magnus et tortus, a Monstrum mirabile and Monstrum audax, or plain Monstrum with Germanicus. Vergil had Maximus Anguis, which, after the manner of a river, glides away with tortuous windings, around and through between the Bears; —
a simile that may have given rise to another figure and title, found in the Argonauticae, — Ladon, from the prominent river of Arcadia, or, more probably, the estuary bounding the Garden of the Hesperides, which, in the ordinary version of the story, Draco guarded, "the emblem of eternal vigilance in that it never set." Here he was Coluber arborem conscendens, and Custos Hesperidum, the Watcher over the golden fruit; this fruit and the tree bearing it being themselves stellar emblems, for Sir William Drummond wrote:
a fruit tree was certainly a symbol of the starry heavens, and the fruit typified the constellations;
and George Eliot, in her Spanish Gypsy:
p205 The stars are golden fruit upon a tree
All out of reach.
Draco's stars were circumpolar about 5000 B.C., and, like all those similarly situated, — of course few in number owing to the low latitude of the Nile country, — were much observed in early Egypt, although differently figured than as with us. Some of them were a part of the Hippopotamus, or of its variant the Crocodile, and thus shown on the planisphere of Denderah and the walls of the Ramesseum at Thebes. As such Delitzsch says that it was Hes‑mut, perhaps meaning the Raging Mother. An object resembling a ploughshare held in the creature's paws has fancifully been said to have given name to the adjacent Plough.
The hieroglyph for this Hippopotamus was used for the heavens in general; while the constellation is supposed to have been a symbol of Isis Hathor, Athor, or Athyr, the Egyptian Venus; and Lockyer asserts that the myth of Horus which deals with the Hor-she‑shu, an almost prehistoric people even in Egyptian records, makes undoubted reference to stars here; although subsequently this myth was transferred to the Thigh, our Ursa Major. It is said that at one time the Egyptians called Draco Tanem, not unlike the Hebrew Tannīm, or Aramaic Tannīn, and perhaps of the same signification and derived from them.
The Egyptian Necht was close to, or among, the stars of Draco; but its exact location and boundaries, how it was figured, and what it represented, are not known.
Among Arabian astronomers Al Tinnīn and Al Thuʽbān were translations of Ptolemy's Δράκων; and on the Borgian globe, inscribed over β and γ, are the words Alghavil Altannin in Assemani's transcription, the Poisonous Dragon in his translation, assumed by him as referring to the whole constellation. That there was some foundation for this may be inferred from the traditionary belief of early astrologers that when a comet was here poison was scattered over the world. Bayer cited from Turkish maps Etanin, and from others Aben, Taben, and Etabin; Riccioli, Abeen vel Taeben; Postellus, Daban; Chilmead, Alanin; and Schickard, Attanino. Al Shujāʽ, the Snake, also was applied to Draco by the Arabians, as it was to Hydra; and Al Ḥayyah, the Snake, appeared for it, though more common for our Serpens, with which word it was synonymous.
Bayer had Palmes emeritus, the Exhausted Vine Branch, that I do not find elsewhere; but the original is probably from the Arabs for some minor group of the constellation.
Williams mentions a great comet, seen from China in 1337, which passed through Yuen Wei, apparently some unidentified stars in Draco. The p206creature itself was the national emblem of that country, but the Dragon of the Chinese zodiac was among the stars now our Libra: Edkins writes that Draco was Tsï Kung, the Palace of the Heavenly Emperor, adding, although not very clearly, that this palace
is bounded by the stars of Draco, fifteen in number, which stretch themselves in an oval shape round the pole-star. They include the star Tai yi, ξ, ο, σ, s, of Draco, which is distant about ten degrees from the tail of the Bear and twenty-two from the present pole. It was itself the pole in the Epoch of the commencement of Chinese astronomy.
Draco extends over twelve hours of right ascension, and contains 130 naked-eye components according to Argelander; 220, according to Heis: but both of these authorities extend the tail of the figure, far beyond its star λ, to a 4th‑magnitude under the jaws of Camelopardalis, — much farther than is frequently seen on the maps.

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